Today I have a short and concise article that sprung to mind while brainstorming article ideas and browsing my Twitter feed and I came up with a very relevant one for you fathers out there: Sending your kids to college. This can be a pretty overwhelming issue for most men with so many questions that go into it.
What college should your kid go to?
What should they major in?
Can they qualify for a scholarship?
And the list goes on…
Fortunately, there’s an easy approach to sorting out all the questions of college, but requires both you and your wife being on the same page before discussing it with your son or daughter, sometimes easier said than done as this can be a very emotionally charged issue. Be sure to tackle this issue with your wife before moving onto your kids or else you may very well get ganged up on.
Where Should They Go?
Yes, yes, your kid wants to go an Ivy League college, but unless you’re pulling in a six figure income, that’s probably not going to happen. For most, your best bet is a two-pronged approach which is the approach I also took to keep costs down.
Step 1 – Send your son or daughter to a two-year college to get their Associates Degree. Typically two-year colleges run significantly cheaper and are local, saving you on travel and living costs. No need to pay for overpriced room and board at the college when your kid can stay at home and drive to college every day. This also carries the side benefit of allowing your kid to get a taste of freedom without immediately throwing them into the deep end of the pool. I’ve personally seen more than a few people go straight from high school to an out of state college and couldn’t handle the unbridled freedom. One such friend lost a full ride scholarship because he was too busy partying and playing video games. When a scholarship is on the line, weigh the costs with the benefits and be honest with yourself about your kid’s maturity.
Also, be sure that the classes at the two-year college will easily transfer over to four-year colleges. Nothing sucks more than having to take “remedial classes” because the four-year college you have chosen won’t accept the credits your kid earned at their two-year college.
Step 2 – Send your kid to earn his or her major at a respectable four-year college. Don’t misconstrue “respectable” with expensive. Choosing a college in the state you live (assuming you live in the USA) will usually be a better option and you will likely be able to pay in-state tuition and, depending on your location, still have your kid live at home. This is a topic entirely dependent on your financial situation and the type of experience you want your kid to have. While there is quite a bit of partying that will be done at college -and don’t think your kid won’t partying- the freedom and burden of self-imposed responsibility and accountability can help prepare your son or daughter for when they get out into the workforce. Simply put, the college life matures some kids and ruins others. Proceed with caution.
Choosing a Major
This will most likely be the most frustrating point of the journey. What the hell does your kid want to be when they grow up? Many will say they don’t have to decide right away as they knock out the first two years of prerequisites, but that’s a foolish approach.
If your kid doesn’t even have an idea of what they want to do, why are you sending them to college to begin with?
From the time they become a junior in high school, you should really begin discussing with your son or daughter what kind of job they want to have in a few years. Make a list of a few careers that interest them and the type of classes and skills they will need in order to be successful in their chosen field. Once you have said list, it’s time to do some research to answer some key questions:
How much education is required?
What’s the pay scale look like (entry level pay, average, cap, etc)?
Does this job lead to other, higher paying positions?
What’s the job market look like for that field?
PayScale.com and the Bureau of Labor Statistics are two especially useful sites when answering these questions. PayScale.com will shows the income breakdown depending on your experience and skillsets along with what kinds of jobs you could be promoted to in the future. The BoLS show much of the same information, but the key component they also show that PayScale doesn’t is the actual demand for the position you’re looking for and it’s growth. I don’t care how much X position pays if there’s only 100 of said positions in the country.
Much of my opinions regarding this topic run in line with Aaron Clarey’s, but I don’t take such a hard-nosed approach like he does (STEM fields!!!) although I certainly understand why he advocates the position that he does. In the end, your kid needs to find a field that they can reasonably get into and that is hopefully growing.
Discussing All This With the Wife and Kids
Like I said earlier, you will first need to get your wife onboard before discussing this with your kid. Most likely both will be starry-eyed and passionate (read – emotional) about the topic and will push back pretty hard when you try to drop some reality bombs on the parade. This isn’t a discussion about ruining your kids dreams, but rather making sure making sure college doesn’t turn into a nightmare. You can sidestep a lot of these issues by stating your concern isn’t what your son or daughter wants to be, rather is there a realistic demand for what they want to be in the job market. Afterwards, you can all sit down and begin looking through the list of jobs your kid is interested in and seeing if they can make a decent life for themselves in that field.
Depending on your kid’s decision, you may very well have to dole out some tough love by not financially supporting their decision. If the numbers don’t add up, don’t cripple your own finances for them to become an Art Historian or something. Gently, but firmly just tell them no. If they want to major in something that lacks any sort of potential, they will need to find their own way to pay for their college. In the end, this will also be a valuable learning experience for them.
What thoughts or advice do you have for the parents about to dive into this discussion with their kids? Let’s hear them in the comments section!